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New Wood Batteries Cost Less and More Environmentally Friendly

published: 2022-08-15 9:30

Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt has announced a joint development agreement with Finnish forestry company Stora Enso to manufacture batteries using lignin-based hard carbon produced from renewable wood in Nordic forests. This is also the world's first anode industrial battery made entirely of European raw materials, aiming to reduce carbon footprint and production costs.

Stora Enso is famous for the production of paper products. It has 85 factories around the world and has a 800 year history. It is one of the largest owners of non-public forest assets in the world and one of the largest forest products companies in Europe. Based on the core concept of "creating the world with trees," Stora Enso is committed to the sustainable development of natural resources. Northvolt battery manufacturing focuses on renewable energy and reducing CO2 emissions. The cooperation between Northvolt and Stora Enso can be described as an instant hit and a strong alliance.

Turning waste into treasure: production waste becomes new energy batteries

Lignin is derived from plant polymers and is also a naturally strong binder. It is mostly found in bark or wood. Trees are composed of 20% to 30% lignin. Its main function is to form an interwoven network to harden the cell wall. R&D personnel physically and chemically treat natural wood to obtain organic fibers containing lignin, which can be used as stabilizers, non-toxic, harmless and pollution-free, and are green and environmentally friendly products.

▲ wood fiber (Source: Sohu IT)

Lignin was originally a waste by-product of the paper industry. So far, more than 95% of lignin is directly discharged into rivers or concentrated and burned as "black liquor." It is rarely used effectively. Now it has been transformed into an important substance for making batteries.

Global lithium resources are rapidly decreasing and the mining process produces a lot of carbon emissions. The market is looking for more environmentally sustainable solutions to develop more environmentally friendly batteries. Wood batteries are most often mentioned. Lithium ion is the most important element in new energy vehicle power batteries. Lithium, cobalt, nickel crust content required by lithium ion battery is only 17ppm, 30ppm, and 90ppm, respectively, and most sources are concentrated in South America. Contrasted with the huge market demand is the reduction in lithium supply.

Polish and Swedish scientists first noticed plant lignin.  After oxidizing lignin and then combining with polypyrrole, the result is made into multilayer polymer electrodes. These electrodes are cheap to make and has a charge density of 70-90 milliamps per gram, which is comparable to or slightly better than lithium-ion batteries.

Wooden batteries can be used in pure electric vehicles in the future

Wooden batteries are not a new concept. In 2013, the University of Maryland developed a rechargeable and environmentally friendly wooden battery. The biggest highlight is the use of wood as the main material. Last year, researchers at Imperial College London invented new technology to make carbon from waste lignin in the paper industry, allowing more sustainable sodium-ion batteries to replace lithium-ion batteries. Nippon Paper and Mikio Fukuhara of Tohoku University in Japan successfully used wood raw materials to make new "wooden batteries." Nippon Paper is considering using "wooden batteries" for pure electric vehicles in the future.

With the popularization of new energy vehicles, the market demand for pure electric vehicles has expanded and vehicle batteries have also entered a high-speed development stage of recycling and scrapping. On the one hand, the supply of battery raw materials is decreasing and prices are rising. On the other hand, waste battery recycling technology and environmental pollution have attracted much attention. According to research, a button-sized battery thrown into water can pollute 600,000 liters of water, which is equal to the amount of water a person consumes in a lifetime. If the battery is buried underground, rare heavy metals can seep and contaminate groundwater and soil.

In order to cope with the above problems, it is even more urgent to find alternative materials to make new batteries. The World EV & ES Battery Conference held in Yibin, Sichuan also discussed power battery safety and low-carbon environmental protection issues. It is believed that more technology companies will devote themselves to the research and development of low-carbon and environmentally friendly power batteries.

Northvolt and Stora Enso have jointly developed cost-effective battery anodes made from renewable wood, bringing wood batteries to the stage once again. It is expected that with the development of technology, wooden batteries can have performance comparable to lithium batteries, or even better than lithium batteries, and will be the most important in the blueprint of human environmental protection.

(News source: Leiphone;Image: Northvolt

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